Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 16: Making Edtech Relevant

Experiencing virtual reality at Thinglab 16

Pop Up Thinglab 16 was held in the student fresher fair at Westminster Kingsway college Victoria centre with 3D printing and virtual reality.

The education system as we know it today has been shaped by the 20th century industrial technologies which facilitate batch mass production and consumption of standardised products on scale - its a discourse that has shaped and normalised much economic and organisational thinking - including the standard education model.

The information revolution is only just getting started but is already interrupting the discourse of the industrial revolution and information technologies are disrupting models based on industrial technologies.

With contemporary information technologies in everyday life people expect fast and personalised (even personal) experiences - something which is often at odds with the experiences people have with large institutions.

Relevant and personal experience interests, motivates and engages people and Thinglab 16 started to explore how contemporary information technologies could bring relevant and personal experiences into education.

Thinglab 16 set up with two very contemporary technologies that offer incredible potential to bring relevant and personal experiences into education - 3D printing and virtual reality.

3D printing is the antithesis of industrial era mass scale standardised production .. 3D printing is ideal for small scale personal production and this was our aim with 3D printing at Thinglab 16.

Using cheap,free and easy "citizen tech" type technologies we set about demonstrating small scale personal production with a pair of Flashforge Finder 3D printers, the Thingiverse 3D design gallery and Tinkercad for simple 3D design. We started straight away - the people on the stand next to us were from the anti-smoking group "healthy heart" so we found printed a heart shaped box for them. Next up a man from Pizza Express came over and asked if we could print something for Pizza express and we printed a Pizza express tag for him. A student came over and asked if we could make a tag for the DC comic Suicide squad supervillain\anti-hero Deadshot so we quickly threw some letters together in Tinkercad and printed out a deadshot tag for him.

A 3D printed heart shaped box for the healthy heart campaign
3D printed Pizza Express tag for the man from Pizza Express
3D printed Deadshot tag for a student
We had excellent in depth conversations with students about different personal manufacturing technologies and the business opportunities with 3D printing. We talked about the pros and cons of FDM v SLA printing and additive v subtractive manufacturing. We spoke about the value of 3D design skills in the future in the gaming, virtual reality and manufacturing sectors. With business students we talked about what was needed to start their own personal manufacturing businesses and examples of what they could do.

Virtual reality is not only a "hot technology" at the moment but its also one with real transformative potential. Familiar media we find on screens and paper is "flat" and observed "voyeuristically" and passively from a second or third person perspective. Virtual reality is immersive and experienced as if you are there in the first person. 

Virtual reality - an Immersive and active first person experience 

In virtual reality you are inside the picture and putting people in the picture is what we aimed to do with virtual reality at Thinglab 16. We used the little Samsung Gear 360 VR camera to take a series of virtual reality selfies with groups of students and view them back in virtual reality with the Samsung Gear VR viewer. 

We are familiar with seeing ourselves in two dimensions on flat media such as photos and videos but seeing ourselves in virtual reality is something new - the VR selfie is the strangest selfie yet. In-situ virtual reality is strangely compelling and messes with our senses as we move from the familiar two dimensional passive voyeurism of flat media perspectives to the active immersive first person perspective of virtual reality.  The best lie is close to the truth - In-situ VR is close to reality and gets the closest I've seen yet to confusing people that what they are seeing is real - people seem spell-bound looking around, many start reaching out to touch things and many can't resist moving around.

Students see themselves in virtual reality and ask 'Can I walk into myself?' 
With virtual reality students travelled to cities around the world went to Borneo, Kenya, Mongolia, a refugee camp in Jordan, walked a tightrope, rode roller coasters, went into outer space, went back in time to the Jurassic era and went on stage with the Cirque Du Soleil.

We spoke with teachers about the potential of virtual reality in education - not only to interest, inspire and motivate students through contact with the technology but more importantly to transform learning through new forms of experience which go way beyond the type of flat simulations and gaming that people have used with technology in the past.

With 3D printing and virtual reality its not about content delivery anymore but about living an experience.

With 3D printing and virtual reality education can shift from systems thinking mass production to design thinking personal experience where we put people in the picture.

For more images and videos of Pop Up Thinglab 16 visit:
Thinglab 16 images (Flickr album)
Thinglab 16 videos (Youtube playlist)

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit

1 comment:

  1. love the transformation of consuming visual culture from passive 2D to active immersion in 3D. Just as active gaming is a higher level stimulation activity than grazing TV channels, 3D screen time is something for learners, and their families and educators, to welcome.